Horse-Drawn Equipment Key to Collection
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That whetted his appetite for John Deere mowers. After a little research, he found evidence of five horse-drawn John Deere mowers. John Deere's first mower was manufactured by Dain Mfg. Co., Ottumwa, Iowa. Deere & Co. bought out Dain in 1910. Deere made four more horse-drawn mowers, numbered 1-4. No. 5 was the first tractor-drawn mower. Dave set to work searching for those machines in want ads and auctions.
The first Deere mower has a long operating handle, but Nos. 2-4 have a shorter handle, Dave notes, "probably because it had a little helper spring to help lift it at the end of a row." Deere's No. 1 and 2 mowers do not have hubcaps over their axles, but the No. 3 and 4 mowers do: large round hubcaps on the wheels indicate the mower number. Additionally, No. 4 is called the "Big Four," because it has a 5-foot bar instead of the usual 4-foot bar, Dave says. The wheels on John Deere mowers have distinctive staggered lugs, like dashes of raised metal, coming in from each side and going halfway across.
Gears on many early mowers had to be oiled, so an oil can area was built into all brands of early mowers. Eventually the mowers ran in oil and no longer had to be oiled manually. There were no greasers at the time, Dave says. "The oil can was the biggest thing," he says.
The New Ideal in Dave's collection was made by Deering Harvester Co., Chicago. Other mowers he's found include an Oliver, manufactured by Oliver Chilled Plow Works, South Bend, Ind.; Case-Osborne, made by J.I. Case Plow Works, Racine, Wis.; and the Milwaukee No. 6, made by Milwaukee (Wis.) Harvester Co. prior to its merger with four other companies to form International Harvester Co. in 1902.
"The unusual feature of this Milwaukee mower is that it is chain-driven instead of gear-driven," Dave says. In American Farm Implements & Antiques, C.H. Wendel says that the roots of the Milwaukee Harvester Co. date to 1850, while the Milwaukee Harvester name first appeared in 1884. "Subsequent to the IHC merger, much of the Milwaukee line was phased out, with its factories being devoted to other manufacturing activities," Wendel concludes.
Dave tracked down most of his horse-drawn implements during tractor-finding trips to North Dakota. "There was always room for two of them at the front of the lowboy (trailer)," he says, "with the tractors toward the rear."
Cultivators add to collection
Two of Dave's horse-drawn cultivators help point out some history. One is branded "IHC Deering," the other as "McCormick-Deering." The earliest Deering cultivator would have been manufactured by Deering Harvester Co., Chicago, and would have been marked "Deering." After International Harvester Co. was formed by the merger of Deering Harvester Co. and McCormick Harvesting Machine Co. (among others), the company kept both the Deering name and the McCormick name on separate cultivators (and other equipment) but with the IHC logo. In 1923, the name was changed to McCormick-Deering.